If you or someone you’re walking with is stopped by the police, it’s important to navigate the situation as swiftly and safely as possible. You can help protect yourself and others by communicating your rights and cooperating with law enforcement.
When walking, a police officer may stop you for a variety of different reasons. A police officer may stop you if they believe that you have committed a crime, like loitering (the act of lingering in a public place without a purpose) or public intoxication (the act of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol in a public place). Or, if the police are near a crime scene, they may stop potential witnesses to ask for more information. If they’re in active pursuit of a suspect, the police may also stop anyone who matches the description of the individual they’re looking for.
Regardless of why you’re being stopped, don’t run or resist. Instead, stay calm and ask if you’re free to go. If the officer says yes, walk away. If the officer says no, ask why you’re being stopped. Remember, the 5th Amendment (Rights of Persons) gives you the right to remain silent—you cannot be arrested for refusing to answer questions.
If you believe that your rights have been violated, you can reduce risk by voicing your concerns in the courts—not on the streets.
The police may ask for permission to conduct a search of you or your belongings. The 4th Amendment (Search and Seizures) gives you the right to deny a search—if you choose to invoke this right, say so quickly and clearly. However, if the officer suspects that you may be involved in a crime or that you may have evidence of a crime on your person, they can conduct a search without a warrant. To protect yourself later, remind the officer that you do not consent to a search. If drugs or weapons are found during the search, the police may confiscate them.
If you are arrested, cooperate with the officer’s instructions and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t forget, the 5th Amendment (Rights of Persons) gives you the right to remain silent.
Questions & Answers
If I’m walking down the street and a police officer asks me to stop, do I have to?
- No, unless they have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity.
If I’m being detained, how long do I have to stay?
- A reasonable amount of time to allow the officer to conduct their investigation. But, you do not have to answer questions.
Can I get in trouble for giving the police a nickname or alias?
- Yes. You cannot give false information to law enforcement.